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Suarez Ready to Gamble, Make it Two Straight in Las Vegas

Trackhouse Racing driver Daniel Suarez at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Daniel Suarez prepares to qualify at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Erik Smith | The Podium Finish)

LAS VEGAS — Daniel Suarez is coming into Las Vegas Motor Speedway off his second Cup Series career win — the third closest margin of victory since the dawn of electronic scoring in NASCAR. In a wild three-wide finish, Suarez barely snuck past Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney to earn the Ambetter Health 400 victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Though he locked himself into the playoffs with last week’s win, Suarez and the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team are not content to wait around for the playoffs at this point in the season. The Monterrey, Mexico, native hopes to stack victories and playoff points over the next 24 races until the Cup Series returns to Atlanta to commence the Round of 16.

“You know, a few people have asked me that question about the playoffs,” Suarez said in a press conference on Saturday. “Honestly I haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t even thought about the playoffs. We have a long way to go before the playoffs. In my mind, I don’t want to be one of those drivers that wins one race to get into the playoffs and that’s it. I don’t want to be part of that.”

“The goal here is to do more than that; be strong in the regular season. I know that to be able to contend for the championship, you have to win three or more races, and that’s the goal for our team. The goal is to build a strong season where we have stage points and wins, so that when we get into the playoffs, we can say we made the playoffs but in a strong fashion.”

Suarez’s victory helped make up for the Daytona 500 when he wrecked out in the closing laps and finished 34th. Through two races, he ranks seventh in driver’s points.

Now that he’s already locked into the playoffs, Suarez and new crew chief Matt Swiderski can get creative and think outside the box between now and September.

“I think so, yeah. I had a meeting with my crew chief about it,” Suarez mentioned. “It definitely gives us a lot more freedom. We want to gamble wisely. You don’t want to do just wild gambles and hope for the best, like a stage running long and hoping for things to just fall in your lap. But you can gamble a little bit in the setup. You can gamble a little bit in the strategy. You can push the limits a little bit harder in a few areas. I think it’s a very good thing.”

In 13 Cup Series starts at Las Vegas, Suarez has two top 10s and an average finish of 20.7. He finished 10th in the spring race last year before coming home 15th in the fall playoff race. Suarez does, however, have two top fives in the Xfinity Series.

Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions had wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. Though the gusts won’t be as severe Sunday, it’s still a concern for Suarez and the 99 team.

“I didn’t really realize how big [the wind] was until I got here,” Suarez explained. “On the interstate coming here, it was full of dust and pieces of debris flying everywhere. It’s going to be tricky, but the beautiful thing is that it’s going to be the same for everyone. Everyone is going to struggle with the same thing. Our group on the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevy team, we’ve prepared extremely well and I think we’re as prepared as we can be.”

The 32-year-old will take the green flag in “Sin City” from the 16th position on Sunday afternoon. Suarez and his team will have 267 laps during the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube to gamble for another win. The race is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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